Highly recruited ESPN 4-star prospect Gentry Williams looked forward to an outstanding junior football season but it was cut short after he suffered an early season anterior cruciate ligament injury of the right knee.
The setback occurred in a 15-13 victory over Del City on Sept. 4. Williams said he's learned a lot from that sobering moment and eventual surgery.
"It can be taken away so fast, the rankings or how you're being recruited or who's talking to you because the whole game can be taken away just like that," Williams said. "You don't try not to look too hard into the future."
Williams, 6-0, 170 pounds, of Tulsa Washington, is also rated ESPN's No. 2 athlete and the No. 23 overall recruit in the nation for the 2022 class.
The University of Arkansas target announced a top 10 on Nov. 30 that included the Hogs along with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Georgia, Michigan, Southern Cal, LSU, Nebraska, Florida and Missouri.
The injury also taught him that "people will show their true colors."
"You talk to coaches one day and they're in love with you because you can do this, this and that and then you can't do this, this and that and then the conversations die off," Williams said. "I'm blessed to be where I am, so I don't think about those schools too much."
Long before the injury and afterwards, his relationship with Razorback cornerbacks coach Sam Carter has been outstanding and the main reason why the Hogs made his cut.
"We talk everyday like we're friends," Williams said. "So that's always good. He just keeps it real with me and keeps it 100. He's honest about how he recruits and it shows."
Williams and his teammate/cornerback Keuan Parker, who signed with Arkansas in December, visited Fayetteville last year in March before the NCAA enforced a dead period because of the covid-19 pandemic.
Carter's straightforward recruiting pitch is a hit with Williams.
"He told me straight up. I'm recruiting you to be better than your teammate Keuan because that's going to push both of ya'll to be better," Williams said. "He's like if you decide to come to Arkansas I'm gong to recruit somebody better than you because the competition is going to get better. That's what he firmly believes in. What he's saying is what he means."
Also an outstanding track and field prospect, Williams hopes to run track in college. As a freshman, he recorded 47.7 seconds to win the Class 6A 400-meter championship and came in second in the 200 meters with a time of 21.14 seconds.
While recruiting is discussed, Williams said he and Carter's best talks are non-football related.
"He's not all about football 24/7," Williams said. "He's about me as a person. He's just like a regular ole guy even though he has a high paying job and he coaches defensive backs."
Williams, who also communicates with Coach Sam Pittman and defensive coordinator Barry Odom, said he and Carter trade texts all the time.
"I remember we were texting last Sunday because he was at the Chiefs game, so we were texting through that and then Martin Luther King [Day] he text me," Williams said. "It's literally on-going. Like Saturday he was telling me what he was up to.
"He treats me like I'm his stepson. He's not trying to replace my dad but trying to continue the guidance that my parents have given me."
Carter had advice for Williams as he started his rehab.
"We had a talk and he said being blunt and honest, he said nobody cares what you got to go through," Williams said. "So you have to grind ten times harder. You're behind the eight ball but hey you know God's isn't going to put you in an opportunity for you not to succeed."
Williams said his rehab is going well and estimates he's about 45 to 50% recovered.
"I just started running now trying to do a little agility," Williams said. "Working on playing off the foot just a little bit not too much but also trying to maintain the strength I'm building in my quad and in my lower legs."
He believes he could be 100% in May or June.
"They think I'm ahead of schedule, but I know I still have a long ways to go," Williams said.
Williams knows Carter will always be in his corner.
"Coach Carter is definitely a top five recruiter in the game right now," he said. "Definitely. I think by the time he really gets going, he'll probably be one of the best recruiters like nationwide. I truly believe that."
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